Beshear to announce Thursday that Kentucky will agree to Medicaid expansion

05/08/2013 02:06 PM

Gov. Steve Beshear will announce his decision to expand Medicaid coverage on Thursday to more uninsured low-income families as provided by the Affordable Care Act, a key lawmaker confirmed Wednesday.

Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, told Pure Politics that the governor’s office told him the decision will expand coverage to 300,000 more Kentuckians which earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty rate. Burch said that group represents nearly half of the uninsured people in the state.

Burch, who chairs the House Health and Welfare Committee, said he will hold hearings starting in June to discuss the implementation of the Medicaid expansion, which will begin in January.

The federal government will pay the entire cost of covering the additional Kentuckians for the first three years. Kentucky would have to kick in 5 percent of the costs starting in 2017 and 10 percent by 2020.

Burch, first told Pure Politics in February that Beshear would agree to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income Kentuckians as called for by the Affordable Care Act.

Kentucky would become the 22nd state to expand Medicaid. The spokeswoman for the governor said the news advisory with the time and place of the announcement would be released later Wednesday.

Senate Minority Floor Leader R.J. Palmer said Wednesday that the governor had made it clear that he wanted to see Kentucky expand the Medicaid program as long as the state could opt out if it becomes too expensive after the first three years.

“I don’t think it’s a great surprise. I think he’s always intended for the first three years to implement the expansion because it’s free,” Palmer said.

Palmer said during the spring General Assembly session, he spoke about the Medicaid expansion with Republican Senate President Robert Stivers, who pushed in the 2013 session for a measure that would require legislative approval of any expansion of Medicaid.

Stivers said such a policy shift with budget implications should require legislative hearings and input. The bill didn’t pass the Democratic-controlled House.

Palmer said he didn’t think the governor’s announcement to move forward with Medicaid expansion would jeopardize the working relationship established between Beshear and Republican Senate leaders in the last session.

(CLARIFICATION: This article has been updated to reflect that Palmer’s talks about Medicaid expansion with Stivers occurred during the General Assembly session, which ended in March.)


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